The Six Steps For Dealing With an Angry Employee

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Editor’s Note: Sometimes, readers ask about past TLNT articles they may have missed. That’s why on Fridays we republish a Classic TLNT post some of you have asked about.

Occasionally, into each life, a little rain must fall.

In this case, the “rain” is an unhappy employee; this isn’t an “if,” it’s a “when” because, when you deal with employees, eventually someone will feel unheard, uncared for, or mistreated.

Should this unhappy employee ruin your day? Quite the contrary. If this person takes the time, energy, and effort to speak up and air their grievances – you owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Angry or frustrated employees have three choices. They can speak up, let things simmer inside, or they can leave. Our immediate reaction, as humans, is to try to determine if this employee’s anger is justified.

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So, don’t take this personally and don’t miss the opportunity to take control of the situation and win this relationship back. And how can you do this? It’s easy.

The 6 steps for dealing with an angry employee

  1. Thank them for their feedback. Let them know the time, energy (and probably courage), it took to let you know about the situation is of great valuable.
  2. Empathize with their frustration. They want to be understood and they want to feel justified in their beliefs. This doesn’t require a long, drawn out discussion. Saying something like: “I can imagine how frustrating this must have been for you,” will do. (Be sure to be genuine about this or you will sound patronizing.)
  3. Ask for the details. Ask them to outline the what led up to their displeasure. Assure them that you will look into the details of what happened and, the more information they can provide, the more quickly you will to be able offer a remedy.
  4. Apologize. Not just a quick “I’m sorry,” but an honest apology for the frustration they have experienced. Remember, they are taking time to help you improve your business. Let them know, in a genuine way, you’re sorry for the inconvenience, displeasure, or discomfort they experienced.
  5. Take action. This is truly what the employee wants to know: What are YOU going to do about it? Just as you would with a customer complaint, this is the time to surprise and delight the employee. Your next action will be what the employee remembers. You are working to win back an employee’s trust.
  6. Follow up! Be sure to say, “I’ll follow up with you in (time frame) to make sure we get this right and it doesn’t happen again.” After you come up with a solution, it’s time to check back to be sure they are now satisfied (and, consequently, delighted to be working for you).

Follow these simple steps and you can take control of the situation, turn an angry employee into an engaged employee, and improve the way things are done to boot. See how valuable an irate employee can be?

This was originally published on Mel Kleiman’s Humetrics blog.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at


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